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Martin, No. 5 team gear up for Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 17, 2009.) – Veteran NASCAR driver Mark Martin and the No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet team both have experienced success at Phoenix International Raceway.

But this weekend, the two will combine for the first time at the one-mile oval in an effort to score another strong finish and advance in the standings. The green flag drops for the 312-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. local time on FOX.

Martin has been racing at PIR since 1988 and has posted an average finish of 9.4 there. He is the only driver, other than his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, to have an average finish in the single digits. Martin has earned one victory, nine top-five finishes and 15 top-10s during the 24 races he has competed in at PIR.

“I have always loved racing at Phoenix,” said Martin, who also has led 676 laps at the track. “There’s just something about that track that naturally clicked with me.”

Under Gustafson’s direction the No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST team has collected one win, one pole position and three top-10 finishes at the one-mile oval. This season, the No. 5 team has scored back-to-back pole positions at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway and has recorded top-10 finishes in the last three events.

Gustafson believes he knows the key to success at the desert racetrack, which has been good to Hendrick Motorsports.  During the last eight races at the track, Hendrick Motorsports drivers have claimed five victories, including the last four straight, and five pole positions.

“The key to Phoenix is turning through the center well,” Gustafson said. “It really becomes a compromise because if you use the back of the car to roll through the center, then you give up the driver’s ability to really use the throttle off of the corners. There’s a fine balance, and it forces you to compromise between the two. Ideally you get to the point where the front of the car turns really well, but that’s hard to do.”

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